Ever since the first news of “Project Volt” in January, it has been obvious that the investment of a major Chinese PV maker in U.S. manufacturing was due to more than simply the threat of tariffs. JinkoSolar has long alluded to a major supply agreement as a motivation behind its pursuit of a factory in Jacksonville, Florida.
Today we learned more about this deal, with NextEra announcing that it is the party with which Jinko holds the supply agreement. It also gave details on the scale of the deal, which will involve the supply of 2.75 GW of solar modules over four years – or nearly 700 MW annually.
The announcement stated that Jinko plans to supply approximately 7 million ‘high efficiency’ solar panels over this time period. If it were exactly 7 million panels totaling 2.75 GW of capacity, the average panel wattage would be 392 W, which, if a standard sized 72-cell solar module, would be approximately a 19% efficient solar panel.
However, it appears that the factory will not meet all of this demand, as JinkoSolar is planning for only 400 MW of annual output. Jinko may simply pay tariffs on the remaining volume.
Kangping Chen, CEO of JinkoSolar, noted about the future power plant:
This will be one of the world’s most advanced solar panel manufacturing facilities, which will provide us with the flexibility and manufacturing capacity to support our local partners and growing U.S. customer base.
Needing only 200 employees to run a factory with an annual output of 400 MW suggests that the facility might use aspects of the ‘Industry 4.0’ push that is catching hold in the solar panel manufacturing industry. This technology push has led toward ‘dark factories’ – factories having little or no lighting running the majority of the time, mostly run by machines.
NextEra subsidiary Florida Power and Light plans to expand its base of solar assets from the current 930 MW to greater than 4 GW over the next decade, and the Florida utility has been very busy recently. They’ve built the country’s largest solar+storage power plant, continued building a series of 74.5 MW solar power plants that are pollinator friendly, and have started running one of the nation’s first utility managed DC-coupled solar plus energy storage systems.
Concurrently to the heavy Florida work, NextEra has also quietly bid some of the largest solar power projects to date, coupled with the world’s largest energy storage bids in a historic bid in Colorado.